Our Blessings

Our Blessings

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two weeks already?!

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.
1 Samuel 1:27

We have all been home for two weeks already. Wow! Time has passed by in strange ways these past few months. Both Trevor and I continue to confirm with one another what day it is and even what month we are in. It is so strange to think that it was 2 months ago when we were getting ready to leave for Colombia...and now we are all home - together.  I have meant to blog pretty much each day since I left Colombia and well...it's been busy around here! Doing the single mom thing for a month and then welcoming Trevor and Angie home...and within an hour from getting home from the airport Loe's fever set in and that started our week and a half of sickness. We passed around a cold and another virus complete with fever, headache and stomachache. No. Fun.

But...it is warm and beautiful out. We are all pretty much well (except Chase who now has the cold). We have settled into a new routine. And we have seen God's faithfulness over and over again. I have always so appreciated blog posts from others who are experiencing similar joys and challenges in their lives. It's encouraging to know I'm not alone. I gain wisdom. I see God's hand in their lives. And I learn how better to be praying and supporting them. So...I am answering so many who have asked how we are doing...really. And how they can be praying.

Now that the sickness is past and I'm feeling pretty good - I feel quite a bit more optimistic. A few days ago...not so much. It's not that I doubted God's plans for us - but I doubted I was going to be very good at this whole "mothering 4 girls - each with unique challenges".  It's amazing how lack of sleep combined with feeling yucky AND taking care of people feeling yucky AND trying to help each person adjust to a new family member and sharing mom and dad AND helping the new family member settle in with a huge language barrier can make one feel a tad overwhelmed. Some of our struggles have been spiritual in nature...I am not one to look for the devil under every bush. I think we walk through life here with plenty of challenges because we live in a fallen world and we have a mighty Father who has promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He's using the hard stuff in our life - on a daily basis - revealing His character, drawing us closer, shaping us. But...I also know that the enemy is alive and real and seeks to divide, destroy and discourage families. I'm pretty sure he is not a fan of adoption - since it brings the lost and vulnerable into families who protect and fight for them. So, it's a safe bet that we are a target right now - heck we have felt that for the past 10 years. Whenever anyone tells me they are considering or starting an adoption I warn them of spiritual attack. Not to scare them off - but so they can be prepared to arm themselves and stand on the promises of God. I haven't met a family yet who didn't have hard stories to tell from their adoption process and/or after they brought their child home. Not only is the enemy on the prowl to destroy, but we are bringing a child into our family that doesn't know Jesus and comes with a hard history. Angie's story is hers to tell some day if she wants to - but suffice to say that we have plenty to work through. People see her and her amazing smile and assume all is going smooth and perfectly for us. Not perfect - that is for sure! It hasn't been horrible - just very challenging at times. And the challenges aren't all her - we are each feeling the change and the attack in different ways.

And though we did attempt to pray, plan and prepare our kids as much as possible for this change - when the rubber hits the road and mom and dad are spending hours dealing with issues and or praying about stuff - they are gonna feel it.  Of course the little ones feel it - and it can be more difficult to explain to them. It is also interesting how walking through some of this stuff brings up questions or issues our other girls are experiencing. That has happened during Vivi's adoption and Angie's. Among some heavier stuff we are also walking through the challenges of diet changes, climate differences, hair and skin care, school adjustments, family rules and the language barrier. We knew that one would be one of the hardest challenges and not a quick fix. Trevor and I have spent the past few months either being immersed in Spanish or focused on learning it to communicate with Angie.  But...as we look up phrases and words and practice each day - we have learned some and she hasn't been learning quite as much English. She's listening all of the time and she does pick up on parts of some conversations - but we haven't been encouraging her to speak the words in English as much with so much more on our mind. This past week we have been more diligent in that area and she's making slow progress.

These are some challenges we've experienced (along with some various challenges in Colombia). But...have we witnessed God's amazing faithfulness in our lives? YES! He has supplied grace upon grace. He gave energy when there should be none. He has given us wisdom beyond our experience. (22 years of parenting sons + 10 years of parenting adopted girls does not = TEENAGE GIRL experience! Ha ha!)  He has provided amazing support at our little school and through sweet friends from church. A meal here, an encouraging note there. And prayer - people faithfully lifting us up in prayer - that is HUGE as we battle the spiritual warfare and walk this path.

And there have been many daily joys. Sweet smiles and giggles. Feelings of victory as either Angie or one of us understands what the other person is trying to communicate. New friendships being made. Listening to each of our girls praise God for Angie finally being home. Matching clothes (that the girls plan out on their own). Savoring ice cream together. Enjoying warm spring days visiting different parks. Watching Angie tear up when Aslan dies in Narnia (knowing that this will help communicate what Jesus did for her!) Seeing God's purposes revealed throughout our wait and our time in Colombia. Enjoying one-on-one time with each of the girls during little dates. And probably many more that I am not thinking of at the moment. Truly God has proven Himself faithful in amazing ways through out the past 18 months we KNEW that He would continue after Angie came home. We are in awe of His power and love for us and our family. In so many ways this adoption has been a walk of faith and obedience - yet as is typical for Jesus - He has brought about pure joy as we follow Him and trust Him.

Here are some pics from the airport (thanks Jeni!) and a few from the past few weeks at home. 

The welcoming committee!

FINALLY...she's HERE!!!!!

So thankful! 

These two are blurry - but I still love them. They capture their sweet smiles and excitement to finally be together! Loe has been counting this down for 18 months and even two weeks in - she still wakes up with a spring in her step and a smile on her face because her big sis is home!

 A few friends and one of our sweet teachers. 

Angie was able to meet her teachers via Skype a few weeks previous to her homecoming. They all came to greet her at the airport - have I mentioned how blessed we are?!

This girl MISSED her daddy! So happy she was to have him home!

Thank you to all who were able to make it to the airport! What a FUN night celebrating God's goodness and faithfulness in bringing our daughter home! 

When we got home late that night - everyone was so tired, but still pumped up on adrenaline. Angie was thrilled to see her new bedroom in person. (She had seen pictures and asked us to see it during a few FaceTime conversations. She was surprised to find several gifts from Miss Betsy waiting in her bedroom including a new blanket, some jewelry, nail polish and a stuffed animal. SO sweet!

Once everybody finally settled down - they begged Daddy to read a bedtime story. He chose our newest Skippy Jon Jones book - one of our favorite book characters.

After I finished tucking Loe & Ren into bed I walked back down the hall to find this. And then I proceeded to melt into a giant puddle. 

One of our lazy mornings. We took 3 days off of school so we could have a long 5 day weekend as a family. Trevor had to work quite a bit - but we relished being home together without a schedule. SO NICE. No...I didn't pose them. They were literally hanging out on the benches while I emptied the dishwasher. I rarely have to pose these kiddos - other than sometimes plopping Vivi down in the midst of them.

Many rounds of Uno and Pretty, Pretty Princess during those first few days home. Welcome to life with four daughters - Trevor.

Loe walked by with her book and Angie immediately scooted over and patted the chair for Loe to join her to sit next to her. LOVING that Angie is enjoying her Spanish Narnia books! 

The long-awaited first day of school for Angie! I think Loe was as excited as Angie! The class welcomed her so warmly - she has been there just one week now and she has already developed some great friendships and continues to look forward to going every day. I love that they have this opportunity and that the days aren't too long - so I get to have them home all afternoon. 

We have had many, many salsa lessons since she came home. Loe has some steps mastered already. She joked that she might accidentally throw some salsa steps into her worship dance routine! Here they are showing their moves to Auntie Kelly and MariaTeresita - two of our dear friends who came over to help us translate some things for Angie. When Angie realized it was MariaTeresita's birthday the following day - she immediately asked me if we could have her over to celebrate! LOVE her heart!

Hanging out at the park with these precious friends/neighbors! The Hettinger family has been such an amazing support to our family through out her entire adoption! So fun to see the kids all together!

Daddy and his girls...minus Vivi who was in no mood to sit still at that moment. :)

Love this pic of Trev and his oldest daughter along with Loe - photobombing it in the background. It really is sweet to see the relationship that has developed between Trevor and Angie. We are so thankful for their time together in Colombia - God knew that was exactly what they needed!

My beauties! Can not imagine my life without each one in it!

Ever since they finished our new neighborhood park - the girls have commented on how perfect these tree stumps are since there are four of them and there are four sisters in our family now! <3

Playing with some Silly Soap - great sensory activity for everybody.

I had intended for these to be their Easter dresses - but they begged to wear them already - so I gave in. I asked them to pop outside on this breezy morning for a quick picture before church and they immediately lined up here - love them all so very much. Sometimes still can't believe God has given us FOUR beautiful daughters! We are so blessed!

The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.
Psalm 126:3

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

She's coming home!

Two years ago God planted a seed in our hearts...one that would grow and blossom into being open to the idea of adopting an older child. 

One day 18 months ago, after an evening talking about God's change in plans for us...Trevor told me to go open up his laptop. There as the screen came to life was this face smiling back at me. She had just popped up on our agency's waiting child list. We spent some time praying and quickly felt God calling us to turn in our letter of intent to adopt Angie. 

15 months ago we met Angie for the first time face to face. (We did have one Skype conversation to meet her.) We had already began her adoption process and then found out that she would be eligible for our agency's hosting

5 weeks ago Trevor and I met her again...this time as our daughter and not (in her eyes) as her host family.  She has grown up so much! Such a batch of mixed feelings to put our eyes upon our new daughter - finally! To feel such joy well up in our hearts to have in in our arms. Yet...to see how much she has grown up without us - even just in the past year is sad. It is a bittersweet experience to adopt a teenager - we get a new daughter that will always be a part of our family. She receives a family not only to help her navigate her way into adulthood, but also beyond. Yet - to look back and know we missed so much and she, like any other child available for adoption as a teenager has such pain and loss in her history. Thankful that our Jesus offers healing and new life!

3 weeks ago I left to come back home and care for our little girls. I left part of my heart behind in Colombia. We are missing them both so much! But...in 2 short days our waiting will come to an end! We have made it through each and every step in the Colombian adoption process! Tomorrow they will get her visa and Thursday morning they will fly home! Praise God!!!

We are all rejoicing in this wonderful news! It was looking like we might have another delay, but God opened that door for us and things are moving forward once again. 

For anyone who would like to join us in welcoming Angie to the US and into her forever family...we will be at DIA Thursday evening when their flight gets in at 8:20. Let me know if you plan to join us! 

We can't tell you thank you enough for all of the prayer and support as we have gone through this process. God has shown His amazing faithfulness time and again during the past 2 years. My faith has grown by leaps and bounds! He is SO good! 

I still have some photos to blog from their time in Colombia that I will try to get up on the blog soon. And we will continue to post updates in the coming weeks and months about how things are going...ways you can pray for us. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

An orphan no longer!

Yesterday we received the long-awaited news. We have our Sentencia! Angie Astrid Collins is officially our daughter! She is an orphan no longer and our family has been given the gift of a new daughter and sister. 

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. 
Matthew 18:5

We feel extremely grateful to finally be at this stage. We began her adoption process about 18 months ago. It has taken quite a bit longer than we expected, but we are thrilled to be at this point. She was worth every bit of paperwork, and every moment of waiting. They are now waiting to get her birth certificate - should have them by 4 this afternoon. He is booking a flight that will take them from Cali to Bogota tonight.  Tomorrow they will begin the process for getting her Visa. The best guess for this part of the process is about 4 business days. So - we are thinking they might be headed home on Wednesday next week - possibly a few days later. They are quite ready to go and have already packed! This was their "we are so excited to go" selfie they took earlier! :) Love and miss them so much!

Truly y'all, God has been so very faithful during this process. But, all of us here and there are walking with a little pep in our step after this wonderful news! God's continual reminder of His hand upon us, this process and even the timing is good as we soon move foreword into the adjusting into our family phase. We honestly don't know how that will go, but we have been covering this in prayer for 18 months and will continue to trust the Lord. Some kids settle right in, but for most it takes time...a lot of time and a lot of adjusting. Learning the language. Strange diet changes. New routine. Very different school. And obviously adjusting to life in her new forever family with little sisters and older brothers. But, also with a mom and a dad. It will be a big change from her life with her foster mom and siblings. Attaching with a teenager will look very different. We imagine God will work on us as much as Angie during this process - just as He has (and continues to do!) when each of our other children were welcomed into our family.

Please keep holding us up in prayer. We hope there will be no delays in Bogota. We have all remained pretty healthy and we would love to stay that way! Extra endurance and energy for Trevor and Angie. They had some rough nights for sleep with lots of traffic and stuff going on around their apartment. I could use a little extra energy as well (last night Vivi decided to have a not-so-common night of being awake for hours!) And just keeping up with the kids, house and all of that good stuff. I've been very blessed this week with some visits with friends and looking forward to some more! The girls are staying busy with school and on the warm days they spend hours outside playing! We have balanced it well with a few extra outings - but plenty of mellow routine, snuggles, games, books and a few movies.

The girls are preparing for a His Little Feet trip next weekend. They hope to get to see Angie before they leave Thursday morning...but we are trusting God's timing with that. I could see some benefits to Angie have a few days to settle in and rest up a bit before her very enthusiastic sisters "welcome" her home and they start school! (Which Angie is begging to do right away! Though we might take a few days to be a family after the girls return from their trip the following Monday evening.) Pray for God to continue to use the choir in mighty ways! The girls always get excited to go see their choir buddies and it has always been powerful to be used by the Lord in this way, yet this time we chatted about how God might use their songs to minister to others and nudge someone forward who was on the fence about caring for orphans, sponsoring or even adopting a precious teenager like Angie. I think it's hitting home even more for them how powerful this ministry is.

Thank you so much to all who have prayed and rejoiced with us during our journey! We welcome you to keep following along - lifting us up in prayer as God brings us to your mind. Please always feel free to let us know how we can be praying for you! We are so encouraged to see God working in your lives in so many ways! Don't you LOVE the way the body of Christ works together and glorifies our amazing Father in heaven! He is SO good to us!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Zoologica de Cali

Trevor and Angie spent an hour at the Cali Zoo...literally! He imagined a good 2-3 hours, especially by letting her use the camera. But...she literally walked to an exhibit - snapped a picture or two and quickly walked to the next one! But...at least she was willing to go! I miss these faces!

I didn't get any photo descriptions - so I'll just let the animals speak for themselves! I did read that the zoo has undergone major improvements over the past several years and is now one of the better zoos in South America. Though I DO love animals, I'm not a huge fan of zoos. I kinda hate seeing those beautiful animals cooped up - even if it's a "spacious habitat." But, it is an amazing experience for kids to see animals that they probably would never see otherwise.  

What a cutie pie! She is really sweet with younger children. 

I am sure this last one was for my benefit. EWWW... I absolutely hate spiders. They are evil and creepy. I always say they must have come after the fall. 

Barrio Granada de Cali

So...still no news. We hope to hear something definite tomorrow! In the meantime...here are some fun pics Trevor took the other day of the neighborhood they are staying in. The pic above is their hotel/apartment building. I'm not quite sure what it is. :) I asked him to tell me all about the pictures he took and I got a note with these descriptions:"apartment building...restaurant...man cooking meat, church door..." Ha! If you know Trevor - he's quite the chatty guy - but not much of a blogger, I guess! (Love you, Babe!)

And the only reason I'm getting these pics is because I accidentally left my camera there and strongly encouraged him to USE it!

Cali isn't known for being the safest of cities in Colombia. :) But, at least they try to make the security bars on the windows pretty!

 Juan Valdez Cafe...the Starbucks of Colombia. It's right by their apartment. Probably a very good thing there wasn't one nearby when I was there. 

 Love the bright colors in Colombia!

These quiet streets aren't a very accurate picture of the traffic. He said it has been keeping them up at night it's so loud at times. And like I mentioned before...the drivers there are CRAZY!

I absolutely love the green rolling hills all over the place - so pretty.

Apparently they are surrounded with Italian restaurants, including The Godfather! 

 This is one of my favorite pics! I want to sit down and hear the stories this lady has to tell. 

 Thanks for the continued prayer support. We are all doing pretty well, though Trevor and Angie are quite ready to be home. She has been fairly moody since I left. We feel so many things are playing to that. Obviously her WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE has changed, and after 2 weeks together I had to leave her. We continue to pray that God is using this time to begin knitting Trevor & Angie's hearts together. She has never known a safe, loving daddy before. So please pray with us that God would pour out healing and peace and that her heart would begin to open to trust and that He would continue to open the doors of communication. She would prefer to stay in their apartment and eat all their meals there. Trevor would like to be out seeing more of Colombia and checking out the fun restaurants. They have been doing a bit of that - after much discussion and compromising!

The girls and I are doing pretty well, though missing them like crazy. Truly it is by the grace of God...I'm feeding the kids 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. Good grief - kids are so demanding! (Y'all know I'm not a huge fan of cooking!). I'm also busy running the errands, keeping up with the house, laundry, and these three crazy, busy, precious girls. And God is pouring strength and peace into me each and every day. (I have also been blessed with a few breaks to enjoy time relaxing and visiting with friends!) Loe is so excited for Angie to come home that she can hardly stand the waiting! We appreciate prayer for that transition - I'm so, so thankful that her little heart is eager to love and welcome in her new sister. We know that may be a harder transition than she realizes. But, we serve an awesome God and I'm praying that He blesses all of these girls with a sweet, enduring friendship!

Vivi has made some amazing progress with her gentleness and patience with little kids ... I am in awe! It has been so sweet to watch her interact with friends and other kids we don't know. However, she has been picking on her big sisters a bit more - that's not so sweet! We're working on it - but oh how I'd love to get this under control a bit more before they come home! Nothing like Angie facing the changes with a forever family, new food, new climate, new school AND an ornery little sister! That's another prayer request.

Thank you again for praying and keeping up with our journey to bring our Colombian princess home!